Massachusetts Braille Bills signed into Law

In August of 1996, the Massachusetts Braille Bill was signed into law.

Senate No. 2409

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Senate, July 29, 1996

The committee Ways and Means, to whom was committed the House Bill relative to braille literacy (House, No. 2144), reports recommending that the same ought to pass, with an amendment striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in place thereof the text of Senate document numbered 2409.

For the committee, Stanley C. Rosenberg.

In the Year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety-Six.

Section 1.

Chapter 6 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 133E the following section:

Section 133G.

The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind shall offer Braille instruction to its registrants; provided, however, that at a minimum such instruction shall be available at sufficient frequency and duration to afford such registrants an opportunity to learn Braille at the grade two Braille level. Vocational rehabilitation and independent living programs provided by the commission shall include within standard client evaluation a written assessment of the appropriateness of Braille instruction. Such assessment shall include: (i) the person's efficiency in reading and writing print as compared with a person of similar intellectual ability; (ii) the person's stamina in using print before fatigue occurs; and (iii) the person's prognosis for further sight loss. For purposes of this section "grade two Braille" shall mean a system of Braille used by the Library of Congress for the production of Braille materials, in which short forms and contractions of words or groups of words are used regularly.

Section 2.

Section 1B of chapter 69 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 1994 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the twenty-first paragraph the following paragraph:

The board shall provide information to schools concerning the titles and sources of Braille text books and technical assistance to schools to develop Braille translation of titles not presently available. The board shall ensure, through referral by the Massachusetts commission for the blind's children's services specialists or other appropriate persons for investigation of any alleged violations, that schools within its jurisdiction purchase or otherwise provide written material to meet the individual education needs of blind persons, either directly or through adaptation.

Section 3.

Section 38G of chapter 71 of the General laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the nineteenth paragraph the following paragraph:

Competence in Braille instruction shall be a requirement for initial certification as a teacher of students with vision impairments. Such competence shall be verified through a testing program which meets the standards of the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind or its successor.

Section 4.

The fifth paragraph of section 3 of chapter 71B of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following three sentences:--Whenever an evaluation indicates that a child is blind, as defined in section one hundred and thirty-six of chapter six, said evaluation shall also include an assessment of the appropriateness of Braille instruction for the child. Such assessment shall include (i) the child's efficiency in reading and writing as compared with children who do not have special needs; (ii) the child's stamina in using print before fatigue occurs; (iii) the child's prognosis for further sight loss; and (iv) the child's present competence in Braille and a detailed explanation as to whether instruction is appropriate, conducted by a certified teacher of students with visual impairments. Any such instruction found to be essential to meet such child's special needs shall be available at a frequency and duration sufficient to meet fully the special needs of the child. Braille instruction may be used in combination with other special education services appropriate to the child's educational needs.

Section 5.

A person who is certified as a teacher of students with visual impairments shall demonstrate continued competency in Braille instruction as a condition of renewal of certification in accordance with the provisions of section thirty-eight G of chapter seventy-one of the General Laws.

Section 6.

The initial test for Braille competence as required by section thirty-eight G of chapter seventy-one of the General Laws shall be developed by the department of education, in consultation with the commission for the blind and with the advisory council on Braille literacy established by section seven of this act, and shall be administered no later than one year after the effective date of this act.

Section 7.

There is hereby established an advisory council in Braille literacy consisting on nine members to be appointed by the board of education, one of whom shall have experience and expertise in using computer technology for the production of Braille, two of whom shall be educators of students with visual impairments, two of whom shall be a parent of a blind child, two of whom shall be blind persons who are regular and effective users of Braille and two of whom shall be representatives of advocacy organizations of blind persons. The council shall be appointed no later than one hundred and twenty days after the effective date of this act and shall expire at such time as the council and the board of education agree the council is no longer necessary. The members of said council shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of their duties.

The council shall file a report with the clerk of the house of representatives who shall forward the same to the joint committee on education on the first Wednesday in July, of each year commencing with July second nineteen hundred and ninety- seven. Said report shall include, but not be limited to the following: the number of teachers certified pursuant to section thirty-eight G of chapter seventy-one of the General Laws, the number of blind students accepting such instruction: the percentage and types of text books and other educational materials available in Braille, and such recommendations as it may make to improve the amount and variety of such materials; and findings and recommendations concerning the employment conditions of teachers of students with visual impairments.

Section 8.

Notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty- seven C of chapter twenty-nine or any other general or special law to the contrary, no city or town shall be required to comply with any provision of this act which, upon a determination by the state auditor, imposes on such city or town a cost obligation or additional cost, which such city or town would not be required to assume pursuant to the provisions of said section twenty-seven C, unless the commonwealth appropriates funds for the assumption of such cost; provided, however, that such city or town may, in its discretion, elect to comply with such provision.

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